The Impact of Montessori Kindergarten On Your Child's Education
Kindergarten is a special time in a child’s Montessori education. After two full years, the Montessori preschool class is a familiar environment to these 5-year-olds. They know the daily routines inside and out; their teachers know them well and can readily work with their strengths and encourage them to take on challenges. They are conscious of being the oldest students in the room, having lived through two years of classroom transitions, starting when they were three. It is during this third year that you (and they) will witness the “explosion of learning” that Maria Montessori observed more than 100 years ago:
Repetition with the materials has led to perfection of skills
They have developed the ability to concentrate for long periods of time
They have practiced patience when working with materials that require them to follow a lengthy sequence and complete a cycle of challenging work.
They have gained problem solving skills from experiencing situations that allow them to resolve a situation independently.
They have learned to make positive, independent choices.
They understand the value of constructive, purposeful work.
Children Who Value Community
The practical life exercises that engaged and fascinated children when they were younger (e.g., folding, washing, polishing, the dressing frames, etc.) evolve into a commitment to contribute and care for the community. They will be folding the napkins and place mats so they are ready for snack, preparing snack and sweeping up the crumbs left behind after snack. In the process, they will be taking conscious responsibility to perform tasks that keep the classroom beautiful and modeling this for all to see.
Language for Reading Comprehension
In the area of language, all the work children have done during the first two years with the sandpaper letters, learning the sounds and the symbols of the letters, and building words with the moveable alphabet now forms the foundation for reading. And it’s not just the task of acquiring fluency and comprehension that keeps them busy. There’s also work with nouns, articles, adjectives and verbs, etc, the foundation of grammar, perfecting cursive handwriting, writing stories and so much more.
Problem Solving Skills
In the math area, learning to count first from 1 to 10, then to 100, then to 1000, and their concrete experience with the decimal system prepares a kindergartner well for the beginnings of abstraction. Now children can work with the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a variety of ways and can memorize math facts. This is the first step in the all-important problem solving skills. I could highlight similar examples for science and cultural studies as well.
Developing Leadership Skills
Beyond the academic achievements that take place, kindergartners in Montessori are given a special and very important role. They are now the “Leaders,” rich with experience and knowledge, which they now regularly get the opportunity to share with their younger classmates. They serve as leaders, helping to guide the younger children, as older students once did for them. This encourages empathy, increased self-confidence and enthusiasm for the learning process, which they can use to adapt to any new situation throughout their life.
Montessori Transition to Public School
I will admit that my husband and I had contemplated moving our son out of White Bear Montessori School for his kindergarten year to minimize the transition to public school. WBMS didn’t offer a full elementary program so we wondered whether it made more sense to move him in kindergarten so that he could start making friends with the children he would be with throughout elementary school. But we loved WBMS and my husband had come around to appreciating the strides our son was making both intellectually and socially. Now that our son's kindergarten year is almost finished, we don't have any regrets at all, especially now that the school expanded their Elementary program to 6th grade.
Our Experience in Montessori Kindergarten
When we were nearing the end of our second year of Children's House, our son's guide encouraged us to watch for his learning explosion and he did not disappoint! At the end of his second year, he was still wandering around the classroom. Then one day in late April, something clicked. He became a working machine.
In the language area, he went from barely legible letters on the chalkboard to beautiful cursive writing strips, then writing stories. At the end of his second year he could not read at all, but suddenly whipped through the beginning readers and is now reading research books about the solar system and entomology and then writing a story book with pictures and text and finally binding the “book” to bring it home with pride. It seemed like a light bulb turned on in his head and everything just fell into place. In his favorite subject, mathematics, he was an early learner. He has been counting since he was two. Now he is adding, subtracting, and multiplying large numbers and will likely approach 2nd grade math by the time he graduates from Kindergarten. I don’t say this to brag, but to explain how a child can go from seemingly uninterested in learning to being a full-fledged reader, writer, mathematician, and social being.
Later, as a kindergartner, he got the opportunity to explore and build his leadership skills. It's been incredible to watch him teach the stamp game to his younger friends in the classroom, or hear him talk proudly about helping the younger children with number rods (a beginning math material.) A great side benefit to that, he’s become extraordinarily helpful in the same way with his little sister and around our house.
If you are trying to decide whether Montessori kindergarten makes sense, please consider this: The kindergarten year is a dynamic year, a year of integrating and making cognitive connections. Your child's education may be negatively impacted if they do not have the benefit of staying in Montessori for Kindergarten. We understand that it's a financial commitment when compared to public school, however, the third capstone year should not be a time for starting a different way of schooling. Rather, it should be a year of extraordinary learning and a culmination of the first half of childhood.